'I think this could open up a lot of interesting doors': LGBT community in B.C. reacts to federal apology

By Clare Hennig, CBC News

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a historic apology to the country's LGBT community in the House of Commons on Tuesday, acknowledging and apologizing for decades of state-sanctioned discrimination.

 Paul Therien and Jen Sungshine both say they are listening closely to Trudeau's apology and having conversations with other members of the LGBT community about its significance. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

Paul Therien and Jen Sungshine both say they are listening closely to Trudeau's apology and having conversations with other members of the LGBT community about its significance. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

Paul Therien, founder and chair of Q Hall of Fame, said the apology is an important step for the country. 

In his apology, Trudeau addressed civil servants, military members and other Canadians who faced discrimination, criminalization and injustice based on their sexual orientation.

It's something many in the LBGT community still remember, including people he knows personally, Therien told CBC Early Edition host Rick Cluff.  

"These rights that we have are relatively new," he said. "There are people who were directly impacted by these laws and this persecution, who are still alive today, and they deserve an apology."

He said Trudeau's apology demonstrates Canada's commitment towards change to the rest of the world.   

"It takes time to change, overall, society's perceptions and this apology is a strong indicator that our society is advanced," he said. "It is a historic moment, absolutely."

'Often not enough'

LGBT artist-activist Jen Sungshine agreed the apology is an important step forward but said the conversation is far from over.

"An apology, while there is weight to it, especially on a state level, it's often not enough," she said.

Sungshine, a workshop facilitator for the program Out In Schools, said she hopes the apology and recognition will open doors to more LGBT funding and support, particularly in schools.

"It's LGBT youth who are still persecuted in schools across the country, and, right now, I think the focus really should be on transgender students, non-binary or non-conforming youth who don't fit into the neat little boxes of male and female," she said.

In addition to apologizing, Trudeau said the government will put forward $250,000 toward community projects to combat homophobia and provide support for people in crisis.

He also pledged $100 million as part of a class action lawsuit settlement to compensate members of federal organizations, like the military, who were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

"I think this could open up a lot of interesting doors," Sungshine said. "It's a really good reminder to not stay complacent and indifferent."